It’s already mid-June! Aghhh! Having lost all sense of time after nearly two weeks(?) of touring with the St. Olaf Choir, I am at long last joining my peers on the Musical Geography Project. I am still settling in my new townhouse and adjusting to the departure of friends who recently graduated, so I am looking forward to the routine and relative calmness of research.

Given that the rest of summer will consist of working with maps and stories of individual music students, it seems fitting to begin with somewhat of a map, journeying from who I am to what I hope this summer will be.

Lucy (right) and Ruby (left)

I’m Jack, a rising senior vocal music education major from Andover, Minnesota, a suburb about a half-hour north of the Twin Cities. While I spend an excessive amount of time singing each day, I do sometimes relax by playing piano or even listening to music for fun (gasp). Outside of music, I enjoy spending time with my two Schnoodles (Schnauzer-Poodle mix), Lucy and Ruby, hammocking, crocheting, and watching reality TV. The dogs aren’t as fond of the hammock, though, so I find that it’s better if they stick to watching TV.

This summer, our work seeks to showcase the stories of early 20th century students and faculties from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), specifically the Washington Conservatory of Music. Our research will not focus on prominent Black musicians, instead highlighting graduates who did not go on to careers in performance, composition, or conducting. Using historical newspaper databases and genealogical websites like, we will investigate where individual students came from, where they went, and how they impacted (and were impacted by) their communities. Ultimately, we hope to learn how these graduates navigated their lives in the face of redlining and urban renewal projects to better understand this history on an individual rather than institutional level.

Doing musicological work excites me because it is not just about music but about people and communities. I was enrolled in Louis’ Race, Identity, and Representation in American Music class last fall semester and published work for the Musical Geography Project about Black minstrelsy (which you should totally check out). That experience allowed me to develop my map-making muscles and gain experience doing intense research in a group setting. Not only did I survive that experience, but I enjoyed it and grew enough to do it again! I will also bring a burning love of spreadsheets and sifting through newspaper databases, which some of my friends see as less of an asset than I do.

By the summer’s end, I hope to have continued to develop my strengths while also addressing some personal and professional goals. As a future educator, I am always looking to communicate complex information in the most accessible way. (Dr. Garner, that one is for you.) I aim to keep improving on synthesizing and presenting information meant for the general public, whether it be through maps or blog posts like this one. Before producing that information, I will strive to keep practicing patience with the always-dynamic state of the research process. This will also require a healthy balance of work and personal time. On that note, I’m bumping up against my time limit for the day and will reward myself with some freshly-baked brownies. I am eager to see where the summer takes our team (hopefully somewhere with more brownies)!